David Roberts Shames the Outliers

If I could take just two bloggers with me to read on a desert island, David Roberts would be one of them. Here he is talking about Obama’s Democratic Convention speech last night: The part of Obama’s speech that was about climate without saying so.

Here’s how I see it: The modern U.S. conservative movement has opted out of that sense of citizenship and civic responsibility. It has become a tribal, revanchist force for the preservation of demographic privilege. It does not acknowledge the legitimacy of the president. It rejects the social-democratic consensus in place in every other wealthy democracy (“Europe!”). It rejects the consensus standards of science and journalism. It does not recognize many of the people and groups with which it shares a country as “real Americans.” I know I overuse this quote from Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein, but nobody has described better what the GOP has become: “a resurgent outlier: ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; un-persuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence, and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”

It’s not that Obama or anyone else thinks Republicans must become Democrats or liberals to be citizens. It is simply that they must regain their sense of citizenship, their sense that adherence to a shared set of norms and willingness to compromise are what make a society function. They must come in from the cold.

It’s not just the right, of course. To coordinate, to accept risks, to share costs and benefits, to move together into the unknown with resolve, we all need to recapture that sense of civic spirit and common purpose. But in U.S. politics today, there is a distinct outlier. Bringing the American community back together must begin with identifying that outlier and subjecting it to social disapprobation. In his speech, Obama rather deftly attempted to do both.

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